Green and Saffron: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Environmental Politics

Cover - Green and Saffron

My book Green and Saffron is just out. The book details and an interview  are on the blog of Permanent BlackFrom the publishers’ notice:

This book examines contemporary environmental issues and movements in independent India on the one hand, and the development of Hindu conservative ideology and politics on the other. It includes the first thorough investigation of Anna Hazare’s movement in Maharashtra.

Mukul Sharma argues that these two social currents—environmental conservation and Hindu politics—have forged bonds which reveal the hijacking of environmentalism by conservative and retrograde worldviews. This, he says, constitutes a major aspect of hinterland political life which neither academics nor journalists have seriously analysed. Environmentalism and politics cannot be seen as separate from each other, for environmental issues are being defined in new ways by an anti-secular form of Hinduism. In turn, Hindu ideologues are gaining mileage for their ideology by espousing major environmental projects.

Anna Hazare’s impact is studied in detail through a careful field investigation of his environmental initiative in Ralegan Siddhi. Sunderlal Bahuguna’s opposition to the Tehri Dam in the Garhwal Himalaya is outlined with great anthropological subtlety. And the regeneration of Vrindavan’s urban and riverine hygiene by internationally funded NGOs is subjected to a historical scrutiny that includes an examination of how Lord Krishna has been redefined as the great god of conservation.

Sharma discusses Nazi Germany and fascist appropriations of environmentalism in Europe to contextualize Hindu conservative nationalists within a larger universe. By pinpointing the communal and authoritarian discourses within some of the new social movements, his book alters the way in which we look at everyday life in the subcontinent. For, says Sharma, at stake in this intermeshing of environmental Green and Hindu Saffron is nothing less than the way Indians understand their humanity.


6 thoughts on “Green and Saffron: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Environmental Politics”

  1. I think this is a novel and somewhat neglected perspective for approaching the environment. Conservative movements, the world over, have hurt the environmental causes. Given the dramatic (and often undocumented) effects this has on the society, greater attention and recognition needs to be paid.


  2. I have not yet seen Mr Sharma’s opus which apparently is a trail blazing attempt in the Indian context. It is now widely known that Hindu worldview is more friendly “to Mother
    Nature” than, let us say, the Judeo-Christian approach. And it is not suprising that the Hindu-nation mongers use that angle to perpetuate the most flagrant denials in gender
    equality, unversal human rights, notions of social justice, the guise of respecting our
    time honoured tradition and practices.Environmentalists should be able to study “Nature
    reverence” from the point of view of economics, anthropology,agricultural evolutions, etc. Only thus Ganga mai will cease to be a religious goddess, becoming instead the everflowing source life and sustenance to millions of people On this subject a German scholar-priest, Eugen DREWERMANN, has published a well documented volume under the
    title DER TODLICHE FORTSCHRITT/THE DEADLY PROGRESS. Don’t know if is available in English translation. Author Sharma has perhaps know about it and even met its author?


  3. Any serious study on environmental issues is welcome.But statements like ‘Sharma discusses Nazi Germany and fascist appropriations of environmentalism in Europe to contextualize Hindu conservative nationalists within a larger universe’ can be avoided as they sound cliched and in the Indian context words like fascism and Nazism have been used without much understanding of the meaning of these terms to denote the right wing movements/parties.All right wing parties cannot be labeled as fascist. In fact the nexus between environmental movements and religion/religious groups need not always result in development of communal/authoritarian tendencies. I wonder how Anna Hazare’s work in Ralegan Siddhi would fit in such a volume as labeling him as saffron may be fashionable but that is not an accurate description. Finally the question is, should secularists and progressive movements be always wary of using religion in championing for environmental causes or should they approach this question with an understanding of environmental ethics and environmental philosophy literature.


  4. well a lot of Hindu customs specially in villages are inextricably linked to nature. Mythological motifs closely mirror environmental arguments…..why only India, what about Fritjof Capra’s book- Tao of Physics and we have a huge Nataraja at Cern.

    In the west a hell of a lot of Berkeley liberals talk about the earth as Gaia and use the Christian versus Pagan Vs industrial/capitalism analogy.

    Part of the problem is that vernacular motifs are very different from englishspeak..

    Maid after maid (dalits from maharashtra) constantly tell me that they are not like those ‘bhangis’ from up north or those muslim bagladeshis. Is A Hazare really offtrack or does he mirror a real truth that is troubling to liberals. Is the caste system really about those vile Brahmins?BJP types….or is the truth really very complex and not just about Hindu uppercastes and even non-hindus.

    Look at what Bibi Jagir Kaur is ‘doing time’ for how in tune is that with sikh reformation.

    Leftist- secular ‘ideas of revolution’ go contrary to internal vernacular speak whether Hindu or not.

    Everybody is part of Marx when revolutionary assertion suits my self but who am I beyond that, specially to take a cut. that will take a ‘real’ revolution :)


  5. “while the recognition of “bio-divinity” is a feature of many religious traditions, including Hinduism, this is to be distinguished from religious environmentalism which involves the conscious application of religious ideas to modem concerns about the global environment”

    worth a serious read:


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